Real-Life 'Blind Side' Family on Giving Back

PHOTOCourtesy the Tuohy Family
The Tuohys, from left: Sean Jr., Sean Sr., Leigh Anne, Michael Oher, Collins.

"The Blind Side," the tale of football player Michael Oher's path from poverty and homelessness to NFL stardom, became the season's surprise movie hit, raking in nearly $300 million at the box office worldwide, and earning its star, Sandra Bullock, an Oscar.

But the movie's success has also catapulted the real-life adoptive family into the national spotlight and changed their lives forever.

Leigh Anne Tuohy, Oher's adoptive mother, has developed a friendship with Bullock, her on-screen counterpart, and spent time with Bullock's adopted son, Louis, she said. But it's not the Southern spitfire who gave Bullock advice on raising an adopted son from her experience with Oher.

VIDEO: The family behind "The Blind Side" has written a book about its experiences.Play
Real-Life 'Blind Side': The Tuohy Family Story

"She gives me advice how to raise my three children on a daily basis," Tuohy said of Bullock.

Husband Sean Tuohy, who was played by Tim McGraw in the movie, said he's already trying to get Louis into sports.

"[Bullock] wants to take [Louis] to the acting side, and I'm trying to get him on the football field, so we're conflicting a little bit," Sean Tuohy said.

His wife said, "They're actually truly fighting about how we're going to raise Louie."

Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy shared the story in their own words about how they came to adopt Oher and their philosophy of philanthropy in a new book entitled, "In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving."

"If there is one meaning we'd like you to take from our story, it's this: The person you just walked past is the one who could change your life," they wrote. "So, every once in a while, stop and turn around."

The Tuohys opened their hearts to Oher after he was left to fend for himself by a drug-addled mother. Despite his rough upbringing, the Tuohy's saw Oher's potential, a natural talent that needed molding.

"It's great to write a check … but it's more important to give up your time, and yourself, your talents," Leigh Anne Tuohy said. "Michael's life wouldn't have been changed if we just wrote a check. He needed our time and our attention and that's what kid's need. There's kids falling through the cracks of this society every, single day. ...I f you just look right beside you, there are Michael Ohers right, four blocks from us."

With the Tuohy's nurturing, Oher achieved his dream of reaching the NFL, and is now a starting offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens.

With Oher out on the field, daughter Collins graduated from college and son Sean Sr., a rising junior in high school, soon enough, the Tuohys will be empty nesters. They did not rule out the possibility of adopting again.

"We're leaving the door [open] ... wherever God takes us," Leigh Anne Tuohy said.

Her husband said, "We didn't go out to adopt. We feel Michael was sent to us and we were at least smart enough to not turn our backs."

The Michael Oher Story

One of 13 children, Oher grew up in a rough section of northern Memphis, Tenn., and bounced between life in foster care and on the streets.

Then, one cold night, Tuohy and her husband saw Oher walking in a T-shirt and shorts in the cold.

That was enough for Tuohy, who told her husband to turn the car around and get Oher.

"Michael was there, he had a need," she said. "We had the ability to fill it. We all fell madly in love with him, probably within 48 hours. He was an instant part of this family."

It was the fateful start of a close relationship, and the Tuohys eventually adopted Oher. With his adoptive mother relentlessly by his side, Oher started to turn his life around in the classroom and on the field.

"I just felt like I was unstoppable," Oher told ESPN. "I felt like no matter what, I was going to win the battle."

Oher: 'Anything Is Possible'

After graduating from high school, Oher played for four years at the University of Mississippi and was drafted this year in the first round by the Ravens.

"Anything is possible," Oher, 23, said. "My background is a bad background, but a lot of people said I couldn't do it. You can do anything if you put your mind to it."

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